Category Archives: Autism

Baby Advice – what I wish I could tell new parents

Baby Advice – what I wish I could tell new parents

Right, so, first thing’s first – I hate getting unsolicited parenting advice.  I hated it before we knew that Isaac was special, and I hate it even more now that the unsolicited advice is rarely helpful to our situation.  “Have you tried ABA?  I read an article that autistic kids do really well with ABA.” <sigh>  “Yes, oddly enough, I am in the know of the most common and documented autism therapy.  Thanks, though.”

Thus, I cringe when I hear myself *give* unsolicited parenting advice.  As it’s happening, my inner voice goes, “No.  NO!  What are you doing, crazy lady?  They hate this!  You hate this!  Stop stop stop!”

It’s rare.  I’ve gotten pretty good at biting my tongue.

But when a new baby comes on the scene, and especially when that new baby is part of my tribe (new nephew, good friend’s new kiddo, etc) – all this advice comes bubbling up and I hold it in.  My new nephew Charlie made his debut last week, and I have so. many. thoughts.

Then I realized – I have a blog!  I can type all my thoughts!  And it’s not giving unsolictied advice, because I’m just sharing my thoughts to the world!

If any new parents (hi Aidan!) happen to read this…well, so be it.  I’m not saying any of this is super helpful or whatever.  It’s just my list.

<drumroll please>

  1. You can’t make a baby sleep.  You can set up behaviors, rituals, and environments that are conducive to sleep…but none of those things guarantee sleep.  Babies do what they gotta do.  Roll with it.
  2. You can be 100% confident that they will either figure out sleeping through the night eventually, or that they will not sleep but will not bother you so you can sleep.  It will happen, someday.  You can set up behaviors, rituals, and environments that are conducive to that day coming, but you cannot make it happen.
  3. Nurse on demand.  It’s what your body and the baby’s body wants.  Be lazy, do what’s easy, nurse on demand.  I am the most scheduled person alive, and I nursed on demand because trying to make a baby shift to my schedule was horrible.
  4. Get life insurance ASAP.  Once anything is wrong with your kid – from autism to pre-existing health stuff – that insurance gets more expensive and harder to get.  Get it as soon after birth as possible – it’ll be super cheap and they have good options now that you can cash out at age 18 and use for college costs.
  5. Baths are important…but not, like, super-important.  If your kid looks dirty or smells, then bath them.  If they don’t, then don’t.  (I mean, babies are pretty gross so you end up bathing daily.  And a bathtime at night is conducive to helping with sleep.  All good reasons…but as kids get older?  If they look and smell clean, let it go.)
  6. You are going to be the primary influence on your kid – on their morals, their outlook on life, on how they view the world.  If someone else in your kid’s life doesn’t exactly match how you roll…it’s okay.  Your kid can still have time with, have a relationship with that person.  You’ve got this.
  7. The parent makes the weather in the house.  How you react to things – to mistakes, to thwarted plans, to rainy days, to running late, to when your kid messes up, or throws up all over you…how you react sets the tone for the whole day, the whole house, your baby’s whole world.  Breathe first.  Take care.  You make the weather.
  8. It is more important to be a good observer of your baby than to know all the facts and “should’s” and details of child development.  Speaking as someone who parented a baby who matched up with *none* of the milestones or sensory reactions of a typical baby…my knowing him, watching him, grokking him was so much more important than my knowing the “right” thing.  If something goes wrong – physical health, developmental delays – you knowing your baby will help the experts SO MUCH.  Watch.  Learn.  Be with them.  Be the expert in your kid.
  9. Ask for help, early and often.  Call the on-call nurse.  Rally your family and friends when you need them.  Related to 10.
  10. Have a village.  You cannot do this alone.  Even if you can for a short time with everything going fine, there will be a time when you cannot.  Deliberately build a village of people you know and trust who also know and love your baby.  Even if you don’t need a sitter right then, have one and be building that relationship for when you do – even if all you do is go out for coffee for 40 minutes and come back home.  So worth it to have that village when you need it.  And you will.


Okay, take it with a grain of salt – my parenting journey has been very specific to autism and being atypical.  But…this is what I want to share with the new parents I love.



We were so smart and kind to ourselves this year!  We returned from our annual Ohio summer trip on Sunday, and due to the quirks of the holiday weekend, had all of Monday and Tuesday off before we had to be back at school/work on Wednesday.  It was lovely – slow, easy, summer days to get the house back in order, play some video games, assure Mako we love him and when we leave we will return, try a new cocktail from Southern Living (recipe: HERE, and verdict – eh, it’s okay.  Not gonna replace my G&T for summer cocktail preference.), etc.

But this morning, I forgot something.  I forgot that the first days of school (in the fall, and in the summer) the bus company really doesn’t have it all figured out yet.  They seem to prefer to do a trial by fire on the first day, so the times they tell you for pick up and drop off are really just kind of made up.  In my stay-at-home life, I just planned a very easy day for the first days, since I knew I’d be standing by the road, squinting to see if I could spy a school bus, for an hour or so in the morning and the afternoon.

stop-1206475_960_720So, this morning, Andrew and I both had to be back at work to remind our bosses that we’re valuable, reliable, employees…and the buses were 45 minutes late.  Which means we were 45 minutes late.  And as it was happening, I was like, “Erika, you forgot, you dingbat!”.  And, poor Andrew, he’s used to me taking the easy flex day since I have the more flexible schedule…but now I do Isaac’s earlier bus to get to work on time, and he does Kai’s later bus to get to work not-too-late since he can work late and I cannot (have to be home for bus drop-off).

I suppose I should be indignant that the bus company can’t seem to figure this out…but I’m honestly at the “this is how it is” phase.  I’ve been doing first days of school with Ridgefield Public Schools for 8 years now.  This is, absolutely, always, how it is.  Is it rude to parents, cruel to autistic kids who thrive on schedule, and unprofessional in general?  You betcha, but, it is how it is.

I just have to remember this fall…



If there’s a plus side to this Trump Admnistration, it’s that it’s reminded me of a side of myself I’d let wither and die: my activist self.

I used to show up, speak out, carry signs, start petitions, consequences be damned.  I outed myself at work when someone sent an anti-gay e-mail to the whole staff, even though I could’ve been fired for being queer.  I had pink triangles on my dorm room door, even though fraternity brothers left me hate-notes and veiled sexual threats after big parties in the same building.  I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote my representatives.  I lived in special activist housing in college, where we hosted meetings and supplied materials for groups to advocate, to protest, to change the world.


And then.

I got complacent, I guess.  I got married, and starting living the privileged life of a white cis-gender upper middle class woman in a heterosexual marriage.  Nothing is wrong with me myself being white, cis-gender, upper middle class, or married to a man…but I stopped speaking out.  Stopped hearing about places to show up.

When a dear friend of mine came out as bisexual a few years ago and told me about it, my first thought was being thrilled for him, and my second thought was that, in being silent all these years, I’d essentially closeted myself.

When Trump got the Republican nomination, I had to come to terms with all this – that the stakes are higher now.  I could just lie low and continue to live in my privilege…but that activist I used to be just rose up and said “no, you cannot.  You CAN NOT.”

And I argued with her.  My children, I said, especially my super-vulnerable eldest.  I can’t go marching.  I can’t leave.  I can’t devote all the energy activism takes.

And she reminded me, if this Administration is as sinister and fascist as our gut says it is…it’s the super-vulnerable who need us to speak up, stand up, show up.  That I’m stronger now than I was before because of my place of privilege.  People will listen to me.  They will see my skin color and my age (not too young and not too old) and my socio-economic status and my religion and they will listen to me in ways they will not listen to others.  I MUST SPEAK.

Then, of course, being me, I became completely overwhelmed by all there was to speak about, to do.  So, after being paralyzed and not-helpful for a bit, I decided just to do 1-3 things  a day.  Build momentum.  Slow and steady.  The drip of water that wears down the rock.

And I hate where our country is right now.  I’m afraid of so many things.

But finding that activist inside me again?  So good.

YES.  Yes we can.